Labor must offer voters at the next general election a radical vision that “goes further and deeper” than Tony Blair’s government because of the scale of the crisis facing the country, Keir Starmer has said.
In a speech on Saturday, he will say that reforms are necessary because a future Labor government will have a bigger task than Blair faced, given the serious challenges the country is currently facing, over 13 years of Conservative rule.
Starmer likened the scale of the changes he would make to “clause IV on steroids”. “If you think our job in 1997 was to rebuild a crumbling public realm, that in 1964 it was to modernize an economy overly dependent on the kindness of strangers, in 1945 to build a new Britain, in a volatile world, from trauma. of collective sacrifice – by 2024 it should be three,” he said.
He will promote Blair’s controversial move in 1995 to rewrite the Labor Constitution, known as clause IV, removing the party’s commitment to mass nationalization in a dramatic shift towards the centre-ground.
“This is about taking our party back to where we belong and where we should always be … back to doing what we set out to do,” Starmer will tell the Progressive Britain conference. “That’s why I say this project is much more and deeper than rewriting clause IV of New Labor … It’s about rolling up our sleeves, changing our whole culture, our DNA .This is clause IV of steroids.
Starmer’s comments are likely to alarm those on the party’s left who are already angered by his decision to drop pledges on tuition fees and the nationalization of utilities. He defended these changes by saying that his proposals were adapted due to unprecedented world events.
He will say in his speech that this zeal for reform is born from the fact that working people “no longer believe in an unreformed state”.
“We have to accept that nobody is uniting behind the traditional way of doing things in Westminster. Seriously, walk around any working-class community and you’ll hit it on the head,” he said, describing of his plans as a “new partnership between politics and workers: a new Labor project for our time.”
In local elections this month, Labor gained 500 seats at the expense of the Conservatives, becoming the largest party in local government. However, there was a strong showing for the Liberal Democrats, too, fueling speculation about a possible hung parliament and coalitions.
Speaking to the Guardian, Shabana Mahmood, Labour’s head of elections, insisted the party was on course for an absolute majority at the next election, based on last week’s local polls across England.
He said there was “respectful disagreement among some of the psephologists” who extrapolated local election data to predict a hung parliament, as last week’s vote did not take place in Scotland, Wales or London. Labor is particularly confident of making gains in Scotland.
“So I think if you look at the whole picture, that’s why we believe we’re on course,” Mahmood said. “But obviously there’s a long road between now and actually completing that course. And that’s the next little bit ahead for us. It’s not like any of us are sitting there thinking it’s going to be bag. I’ll be the first person to militantly eliminate that. All we know is that it can be done. We know there’s a way out there for us. And we have a lot of it.”
Starmer’s speech comes at a time when Labor is under pressure to make more sweeping policies. The sources said that more details of the party’s offer to voters will be set in the coming months and at its conference in the fall. Before that, the national policy forum process in July will begin to shape the priorities of a Labor government.
In a briefing sent to Labor members this week, the 86 pages of proposals for debate at the forum include measures such as solar rights for workers, billions of pounds of green investment, childcare reform, and a major expansion of NHS staff, as well as 16 votes.
Starmer has yet to set out how his proposed reforms to the state will take shape, but he told the Observer this month that he would be “bolder” than the last Labor government in overhauling public services. He also made plans to speed up house building and get more young people on the property ladder.
In his speech, Starmer will launch a fresh attack on the Conservatives for being “unconservative” and failing to understand people’s need for “stability, order, security”.
“We must understand that there are precious things – in our way of life, in our environment, in our communities – that it is our responsibility to protect and preserve and pass on to future generations,” he said. “And if that sounds Conservative, then let me tell you: I don’t care. Someone has to stand up for the things that make this country great, and it’s not the Tories.
He says Rishi Sunak’s party will not stand for “our rivers and seas, not our NHS or BBC, not our families, not our country”.
The Conservatives accused Starmer of a cynical rebrand, with party chairman Greg Hands saying: “Starmer has gone back on every promise he’s made and now he’s aggressively trying to rebrand himself as flip-flops as ‘reform’.”